Getting a local business to rank high on Google is more challenging than ever. It’s even more so for those in complex and competitive sectors like used car dealerships. Auto shoppers do most of their research online before they ever set foot in a showroom, that is, if they even do so during the pandemic. Many complete the preowned vehicle shopping and buying process online.
According to research from Google, the average car shopper only considers two dealerships when making their final used car buying decision. That’s why it’s critical to rank high when people search online.
Used car dealers have to leverage some sophisticated search engine optimization strategies to improve their rankings. Preowned vehicle dealers typically buy and sell cars, and they want to rank for both. In addition, they may sell many models and years of vehicles at a range of price points. They could also have a service department that offers different types of maintenance and repairs including oil changes, tire rotations, tune ups and more.
This makes a used car dealer not a single business, but, in some ways, three different ones:
- A car buying option.
- A car selling operation.
- A vehicle repair service.
Add to this the fact that some preowned dealers have multiple locations and may sell cars online and in the “real world”. Depending on the setup, a dealer could have a single website or one for each location, way of shopping or service.
With all this complexity, you may be looking for some easy ways to get found online. That’s why we’re sharing some simple proven strategies you can use to juice your dealership’s Google rankings and maintain them over time.
1. Make the most of Google My Business (GMB).
Leveraging Google My Business to its fullest has been shown to have a direct correlation to local SEO performance, making it more likely for businesses to show up in the top three results.
Start by making sure your dealership’s information in GMB is correct and complete. It should include everything online searchers could find valuable, including:
- Name, address and phone number. Check that all these things are accurate. If you have a phone number with a local area code along with a toll-free number, use the local number in your listing because it will indicate to Google that your business is a local operation. Also, ensure the information in your Google My Business listing is the same as on all other online directories to avoid conflicts that could confuse Google.
- Categories. Google My Business lets you select a primary category along with additional ones to convey what your dealership offers. The categories you select are one of the factors that determines what you rank for and how you rank for those things. The categories will help connect you with possible buyers who are looking for what your car dealership offers. Don’t make the common mistake of selecting too many categories. It will confuse search engines. Choose the right categories to describe the central components of your dealership’s business. If you find that you’re not ranking as high as you’d like for certain aspects of your operation, you can adjust your categories over time until you get things right.
- Photos. Google checks photo engagement on GMB to help determine rankings in local search. Select awesome photos of the most interesting cars on your lot. Change them out frequently. Take things to the next level and ask customers to sign photo consent forms so you can post images of them with their automotive purchases. People love seeing pictures of other happy people enjoying their vehicles.
- Videos. Many people aren’t aware that they can upload short videos to their Google My Business listing. They’re a great way to show what makes your business unique. This is particularly important now because people may never visit your lot because of the pandemic. Include several videos that show different aspects of your dealership and the vehicles you sell.
- Reviews. People today don’t believe in marketing or hype. However, they do trust the opinions of people who are like them. Ask happy customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing. While you’re at it, make it a point to respond to all the reviews you receive, even negative ones.
- Q&A. This is another GAB feature many businesses aren’t aware of. Ignoring it could be a BIG mistake. When people use it to ask you questions, make sure you answer them as promptly, clearly and correctly as possible. Responsiveness and accuracy will go a long way toward building credibility with Google.
Regularly monitor your Google My Business dashboard. Things change, especially during challenging times like these. Make sure your listing always includes all the latest information about your operation.
2. Take advantage of online directories.
Leveraging online automotive directories is a proven way to improve your used car dealership’s Google rankings and backlink profile. On top of this, the best of these directories rank high on Google search results. If your dealership isn’t listed on them, you could be missing out on cost effective ways to find new customers. Make sure your dealership’s name, address and phone number on the directories are consistent with the information you have listed on Google My Business.
3. Encourage online reviews.
Beyond Google My Business reviews, ask your best customers to submit ratings and reviews on other sites. Positive notices will have a beneficial effect on your Google results. Don’t limit review requests to your used car sales business. Ask people who sell cars to you or use your repair service to rate you as well. Make it easy for people to provide reviews. Send links to review sites via email to happy clients. Include links on your website, as well.
4. Leverage the right keywords.
Selecting keywords that are meaningful to shoppers has always been an important part of successful SEO strategies for used car dealers. You need to find the right balance of keywords that your prospects care about, have a high search frequency, moderate competitiveness and are relevant to your business, including what it does and makes it unique. Once you do that, use them on your website and in content you regularly publish on your blog. It will send ongoing signals about your business and what makes it relevant to Google and other search engines.
5. Optimize your images.
One of the most popular Google automotive searches is for “pictures of [car model].” Take advantage of this by tagging the pictures you upload to your website and blog with the words “picture of”, along with the brand name, make and model. Include this information in captions, as well. Don’t overdo it because it could come across to Google as gaming the system. However, it should be part of your image optimization strategy when it makes sense.
6. Connect locally.
One valuable Google optimization strategy many used car dealers miss out on is making local connections. Linking to regional pages on your site signals to Google that your business is an integral part of the community you serve. It also helps build trust and support with people who live in the area. For example, on your “About Us” page, you may want to link to the websites of charities and community organizations your business supports. Or include links to your local Chamber of Commerce or city guide where appropriate.
Leveraging these six simple tips could make a BIG difference to how you rank in Google, making it possible for many more prospective customers to find your dealership online.